Porch

I dreamt of my father sitting by the water.


He was on a front porch, a long wrap around chestnut colored porch with white railings. He sat in his wheelchair, my son’s royal blue blanket tucked up to his chin. There was no mask on his face. His eyes, the clear blue green that they are, were staring straight ahead, watching as waves lapped and crashed, and sea gulls laughed into the wind and dove at the sandy shore. His eyes, in this dream, were not glazed over, they were not unfamiliar. It was him, my father, and he was at immense peace, watching the water and the birds, his favorite things.


I woke up aching. Shameful. I’ve carried this image of him on the porch with me for a few days now, nestled tightly against my heart, threatening me. This can happen, my heart pleads, but how, my mind races.

When my father was his worst, I too, was my worst. I didn’t know how to love him through his sickness, didn’t know how to bring stillness to his chaos. There were nights I’d wake up to him standing over me, calling me a name I didn’t know, demanding we have to leave so they don’t get us. He was crazed, his mind playing the worst kind of tricks on him. He believed he was back in the war, dodging grenades and bullets, jumping from helicopters and running, always running, away from whoever was trying to get him.


I hated him, these days. My brothers couldn’t handle it, so they chose distance, an easy escape. My mom couldn’t bear it, so she cried, all day, every day. Doing the dishes, folding the laundry, watching her show on tv. My dad was always on her mind, the old him, the man from long ago.


I see him now, drugged and calm and unable to move, and I wonder if he can recall the long ago. Most days there is nothing in those eyes, just a blankness, a far away look that tells me he hasn’t been in there for a long time. But then, some days, he’ll look right at me, say my name.


That’s all it takes, him saying my name. I know he’s in there somewhere. I hope he lives in memories, that they aren’t far away like they are for us. I hope he closes his eyes and hears the sound of our sneakers hitting the pavement on a run, or the feel of my mom’s hand in his, or smell of the sea in the morning. I hope the long ago is all he knows, all the best parts of his life unfolding constantly before him.


I know these are just hopes, though. There are invisible emotions I know he cannot show us. Like when he says my name, I know that makes him feel something. When he tries to speak to my mom, I know the words are in him, piling up too high, never able to be spoken. I know when he closes his eyes and refuses to engage, it’s the only way he knows how to tell us he cannot take it anymore, his new reality crashing together with whatever runs on repeat in his brain. I know he still feels it all, silently, in his own way, his own suffering. A suffering I cannot fathom.


His absence has created a shadow over my whole life. He is here, but he is gone. It is a grief that cannot come to fruition, cannot be experienced in its full capacity. I want to mourn him, think of him bathed in marvelous Light, welcomed into the arms of the Father. But instead, when I think of him, of who he was to me in the before, it’s followed by who he is now, a shell of who he was, stuck, lost, alone.


So I cling to this dream, of him on the porch. His cheeks red from the cool air, his hair smelling of salt. He is not healed, not back to the before, but rather he is at peace in the now. He deserves that. I owe him this, for pushing him away at his worst. It was easier to pretend he wasn’t in there anymore, than to face the reality that he was slipping away, never to come back.


But I know he forgives me. I know it when he says my name.


I will find that porch, in that sun, by that ocean, and I will bring him to it.


I think of my father

And the weight is too great a burden.

It is too heavy to hold.

But too heavy to put down.

It is the rock in my chest, as water washes over it, the edges carving away at my core, making it impossible to just

Catch

One

Breath.

It is grief, the most silent of intruders.

Grief, in its unbearable weight.

Grief, in its loneliness. The dark shadow of suffering, alone, quiet.

Grief visits me all at once.

Never announcing itself, not polite enough to wait for me to be ready.

Always in a flood

Deep and overwhelming

Sometimes fast

But mostly

Just

A slow submerge.

Until there’s no where to run, except right into the arms of grief.

Where my heart stops beating. And my eyes shed their layers of tears. Where there is nothing and everything. Memories of before, and the blank expanse of ahead.

Without him, my father.

As he sits

And suffers

Alone.

Waiting for dawn to break each morning.

Or maybe, waiting for it not to.

And I sit

Alone

And suffer.

Maybe he thinks of me

His daughter

While I think of him

My father.





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